Cooking for One

Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of Meals for One in Just Over an Hour

updated Jun 8, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn
Credit: The Kitchn

Before meeting my husband, I spent a number of years as a solo cook. Even now, on weeks when he’s traveling or has other plans, I plan, prep, and cook for just myself. I’m a firm believer that planning and meal prepping for one brings value to your week, and is absolutely worthwhile.

This Power Hour is focused on quick and easy prep that will leave you with minimal cooking to do on weeknights (think: 15 minutes max). The staples you prepare can be repurposed throughout the week into distinctly different meals so that you’re not left eating the same thing all week long. Ready to see how it’s done?

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

My Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: An easy mix-and-match breakfast that can be eaten at home or on the go (5 days).
  • Lunch: A make-ahead, light, protein-packed lunch (5 days).
  • Dinner: Prepped meals that only require assembly, reheating, or light cooking to bring together (4 days).
  • Nutritional Goals: While I don’t have any food restrictions, I make a point to work in a lot of vegetables and focus my diet on a wide variety of whole foods that feel (mostly) healthy to me.
Credit: The Kitchn

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: One person
  • Prep Time: About 75 minutes
  • Meals Covered: About 75% (no Friday dinner or weekend meals)
  • Weeknight Cooking Required? Moderate (up to 15 minutes of light cooking to get dinner on the table).

My Meal Plan




Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: Kelli Foster/Kitchn

My Shopping List

Below are the ingredients I bought or used for this meal prep plan. I also relied on staples already in my pantry, like olive oil and dried spices.

  • Produce: 1 pint berries, 5 ounces baby spinach, 3 lemons, 1 shallot, 1 bunch parsley, 1 bunch oregano, 2 pints cherry tomatoes, 1 pound cremini mushrooms, garlic, 1 medium zucchini, 1 large sweet potato
  • Meat & Seafood: 1 boneless chicken breast, 1 (6-ounce) salmon fillet
  • Dairy, Eggs, & Refrigerated: Greek yogurt, 1 dozen large eggs, red cabbage kraut, 4 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls  
  • Pantry: Quinoa, steel-cut oats, 2 cans cannellini beans, pesto, 1 (1-pound) box fusilli pasta, 1 box chicken broth, 1 box polenta, 1 loaf sourdough
  • Other: Cooked white rice
Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: Kelli Foster/Kitchn

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

  1. Roast vegetables: Since this takes the longest and is mostly hands-off, I prep the tomatoes and mushrooms, divide them between two sheet pans, and slide them into the oven for about 30 minutes, along with a whole sweet potato, which takes about 45 minutes to cook through. Once the tomatoes and mushrooms are done I cool them completely on the sheet pans. Meanwhile, I move on to cooking other ingredients on the stovetop.
  2. Poach chicken breast: I add one boneless chicken breast to a saucepan, cover it with cold water, and poach it on the stovetop for about 10 minutes. When it’s done I shred the chicken and set it aside until I’m ready to prepare the soup.
  3. Cook grains and pasta: Meanwhile, I cook the quinoa and steel-cut oats for the breakfast bowls (halving the recipe so there’s just enough for the week ahead). When it’s done, I fluff the grains and set the saucepan aside to cool. I also cook the pasta in a large pot at the same time, and when it’s al dente, I drain and rinse the pasta, and rinse out the saucepan so it can be used for the soup.
  4. Cook hard-boil eggs: Meanwhile, I hard-boil three eggs in a small saucepan.
  5. Make soup: I bring the broth to a simmer, then stir in the shredded chicken, cooked white rice, and lemon juice. I set it aside to cool before storing it in the refrigerator.
  6. Sauté greens: While the soup comes to a simmer, I quickly sauté a big pile of spinach to be used for breakfast grain bowls and a stuffed sweet potato dinner.
  7. Prepare marinated beans: With the cooking completed, I prepare the marinated beans.
  8. Assemble pasta salad: Now that the pasta, tomatoes, and mushrooms are cooled I mix together the pasta salad. I add about half the vegetables to the cooked pasta, along with some mozzarella pearls and store-bought basil pesto.
Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: The Kitchn
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

A Week of Meals for One


Each morning for breakfast I start with my grain bowl base of quinoa and steel-cut oats, and to change things up a little bit I alternate between topping it with Greek yogurt and fresh berries or a hard-boiled egg and sautéed greens.


Monday, Greens with Marinated White Beans & Hard-Boiled Egg: Since lunch was made a day in advance, there’s just enough time for the marinated white beans to soften the baby spinach without making it totally wilted.

Tuesday and Thursday, Pesto Pasta Salad: I use about half of the roasted tomatoes and mushrooms for a simple chilled pasta salad mixed with pesto and bite-sized mozzarella pearls.

Wednesday and Friday, Lemony Chicken and Rice Soup: Boxed broth, a poached and shredded chicken breast, a container of white rice from a takeout shop, and lemon are all I need to bring a quick soup together for lunch. I make it in advance, so all that’s left to do is reheat it in the microwave when it’s time to eat.


Monday, Pesto Zoodle Bowl with Salmon: I cook the salmon fillet under the broiler for about 7 minutes, and meanwhile spiralize the zucchini and toss it with the remaining pesto sauce. It’s a quick dinner that’s ready in under 15 minutes.

Tuesday, Stuffed Sweet Potato with Marinated Beans and Sautéed Greens: I reheat the cooked sweet potato and spinach, then slice open the potato, fluff the inside and stuff it with the greens and beans.

Wednesday, Sheet Pan Roasted Tomatoes and Mushrooms with Polenta: I cook a small pot of polenta on the stovetop, then top it with reheated roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, and some grated Parm.

Thursday, Marinated White Beans on Toast with Fried Egg: I toast a couple of slices of sourdough, top it with the remaining marinated beans, and a couple of fried eggs.


Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.